What if you are gaining weight on TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure)

First, if you don’t know what TDEE is, look here:

What is TDEE

So I get the occasional person posting “TDEE doesn’t work for everyone. I am gaining weight.”

I have to point one thing out first. Eating to TDEE is not necessarily a sure fire way to lose weight and that was never the intent. Eating to TDEE is how to balance your hormones, ensure adequate energy intake to allow all body processes to operate as they were intended, to ensure you are eating enough food to obtain all the essential vitamins and minerals necessary to perform all the complex biochemical reactions needed to make your machine function as it was meant to and to keep your base metabolic rate at a level that makes you flexible. Being metabolically flexible means that if for a few days a week you want to cut calories to lose a few pounds quicker, you can do that. You have room to drop calories occasionally. If you are chronically eating 1,000 cals a day and you stall, where do you go from there? 800? Then when you stall there? Zero cals a day? See what I mean? Metabolic Flexibility is important.

So what does it mean if you gain weight doing TDEE? Lets break that down:

What is TDEE?

The calories you use to get your TDEE is the number of calories a normal person of your age, height, weight and physical activity level should be able to eat, on a standard diet that is high in carbs, and be able to MAINTAIN THEIR WEIGHT.

That is the key idea here. You should be able to maintain your weight, even eating carbs and having elevated insulin, when eating this amount of food.

If you are gaining weight eating TDEE and you are also eating a ketogenic diet that is keeping your insulin low, this is a major warning sign. Red flag! Sound the alarm! You are in a very bad way. This typically only happens to people who have been following a very reduced caloric diet for some extended period of time. They have tanked their metabolism and can no longer burn through energy at a normal rate making it hard for the body to deal with incoming energy.

The reason people stall when losing weight is usually due to metabolic slow down. This has been measured and is pretty concrete as a fact at this point. You can read about a 6 year study following the contestants of the biggest loser, who used the principle of eat less and move more to lose massive amounts of weight, that showed even though they maintained their strict calorie restricted diet along with a heavy exercise regiment they all gained the weight back. It clearly shows a dramatic reduction in their base metabolic rate. They actually use less calories then they used to making it impossible to maintain weight loss. They are still eating nothing and still exercising like mad but since they are using less calories just to live than they were before they are actually at a caloric surplus. Therefore they gain the weight back.

Long term Changes in BMR after Biggest loser (severe caloric restriction)

So what should you do? Quit and go back to caloric restriction? Likely if you are trying TDEE you’ve already been down that road and it wasn’t working so that isn’t the right path. So what do you do? The answer to that comes down to what is happening when you are eating TDEE.

Eating to TDEE forces your body to try and deal with all of the extra energy coming in. If you are eating carbs or higher protein, this will result in weight gain due to elevated insulin. If you are eating keto, this should result in weight loss as well as high ketones because your fat stores will be releasing fat which will satisfy your energy needs and the incoming high fat diet will have no place to go but to get converted to ketones.

So why would you gain weight? Simple. As shown in the NIH’s study on the Biggest Loser contestants, you have forced your body to reduce your metabolic rate (the amount of energy it uses to function) so dramatically from years of starving it of energy that the amount of fat energy that is required from your stored fat is so very little that the extra TDEE calories you are eating simply cannot be effectively wasted. Even by converting them to ketones. There is only so much it can do.

So why continue with TDEE? Well that is pretty simple. Just as you can tank your metabolism, you can renew it. The longer you eat TDEE the higher it will rise. It may never get to where it was, although I think a period of exceeding TDEE can get it there or even higher, but it will rise and the longer you do this the higher it will go and the more energy you will effectively be able to use. If you were gaining the gain will slow just as the loss slows with caloric restriction. It goes both ways. Eventually it will taper off and even start to go in the other direction.

Once you have your metabolism right again, you can then play with some different, but responsible, strategies for weight loss. Some of these are but not limited to:

Short cycles of low calories followed by periods of TDEE or higher
Alternate day fasting

So in short, if your definition of TDEE working for you is losing weight right away, no it may not work for you. If you choose to look at it for what it actually is, a way to get your metabolism back to a healthy state, then it will work 100% of the time.

Keto on!

Coach Jack

For help with your ketogenic Diet you can sign up for personal coaching with Coach Jack. Visit Personal Coaching with Coach Jack for more information.

22 Replies to “What if you are gaining weight on TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure)”

  1. This describes me to a T! And articles like this give me hope! It makes so much sense… I have “killed” my metabolism. I will not give up on Keto or TDEE because I’ve “been there, done that” with every diet out there – with only very temporary results. This, I can do. And with your knowledge & expertise as my help, I WILL be healed!

    Keto on!!

    1. Monica, I am in the same boat. I’m curious, though. You posted on 12/10/17 – where are you at now? Have you started losing? Are you exercising?

  2. Thanka so much Jack. Finally I understand what you were trying to tell me.

  3. With regard to alternate day fasting:
    I’ve seen videos where people are fasting MWF and feasting on STThS. Is that for metabolic repair? I’ve consumed less than 1,500 calories per day for years, and am still overweight. I started this WOE in early Nov and have lost 50lbs, but do notice that the scale will sometimes reverse as much as 10lbs – this post helps to understand why. I’ve been eating to TDEE since November, but have done a couple fasting regimens.

    1. It helps with blood sugar regulation for one. It also makes your body go into a fasted state which will allow you to use all the days energy from fat storage. So long as you split the fasting days with feasting days and have at least as many feasting days as fasting you will do well with a few exeptions. Some people seem to get adverse reactions to fasting and don’t lose any weight and even gain while fasting. I believe this is from cortisol spikes while fasting.

  4. So if I exceed my TDEE for a while to help repair metabolic damage how much would I raise it and would macros remain the same percentages?

    1. You don’t have to exceed it by much. Maybe add 300 cals. I would keep the protein the same and just add fat.


      TDEE is 2000 cals

      20g carbs
      60g protein
      187g fat

      Exceed TDEE by 300 cals: 2300 cals

      20g carbs
      60g protein
      220g fat

  5. Thank you Jack for what you do. I’m trying to repair my metabolism, I’m wondering, ballpark, what is the usual timeframe of exceeding TDEE until I may see signs of repair.? I’m assuming I have the most sluggish metabolism. I’m in for the long haul, but feel ready to begin a bit of IF. I have gained a few pounds back but haven’t lost yet. Wondering if it may take weeks, or more like months.

    1. There is absolutely no way to ballpark this. Everyone has such varying degrees of derangement it is not predictable.

  6. I am simply overwhelmed. I’ve been trying to follow keto since October. Everyone said not to count calories, and to eat no sugar , eat more fat and only eat net 20 g of carbs per day.
    Now I’m trying to figure out what a macro is, get the percentages right for carbs, protein and fars, and now count calories????? But all of this is just too much to track???
    Help please. I need simplicity too. Thanks

    1. I suggest getting a book for beginners like Keto Clairity. It seems like you don’t have the basis of understanding of food that you require. Learn all the terms, Macros, total and net carbs, and how to read food labels.

  7. I’ve been keto for 6 weeks and have gained 6 lbs. been a yo yo dieter my whole life. Is there hope?

  8. So can I ask what would be a normal amount of weight gain to possibly expect eating a new tdee. I’ve been eating 1400-1600 for YEARS. After figuring my Tdee I should be at 2280 apparently. 5’9″, female cw 160 I came up with C20g/P65g/F215g I just can’t see how i could do that and not gain. I do lift heavy 5x a week, but say i eat to the new tdee, if i gain 5-6 lb is that normal and to be expected? how till it drops back down normally? Just trying to prepare myself for what I’m assuming is inevitable. Been doing keto for 7 wks, initially i lost 8lbs, but I’ve been stalled for 3-4 wks now.

    1. IMpossible to know. Some have lost weight immediately while others have gained a pound to 10lbs. it is all very individual and depends on how much damage you have done to yourself by yo yo dieting over and over. The more times you have lost and gained the weight back the worse it gets.

  9. Based on the above:
    Eating to TDEE is how to balance your hormones, ensure adequate energy intake to allow all body processes to operate as they were intended, to ensure you are eating enough food to obtain all the essential vitamins and minerals necessary to perform all the complex biochemical reactions needed to make your machine function as it was meant to and to keep your base metabolic rate at a level that makes you flexible.
    I just got my blood work back & my fatty acids are in the toilet so doc put me in high dose omegas. Is this something eating to TDEE will help fix? Appreciate the information.

    1. Not necessarily. If you arent eating omega 3 foods you won’t have great omega 3. This has to be what he means by your fatty acids being low. I still take high dose omega 3 every day.

  10. Hi Jack, thank you for ALL the advice and info you put out there… I’ve been wondering, am I the ONLY zone who has gained weight on keto??? 😩😩😩 Yes I am a chronic dieter and lost weight in an unhealthy way. Being overweight all my life I’m finally 10 pounds from goal weight (was 5 pounds until I gained weight 6 months after keto) My question is, if I’ve been keto for one year and gained 4-5 pounds, what other testing or issues should I look for? Hormones? Thyroid? I have a Physical coming up so would like to ask for blood work. I definitely eat to my tdee and am enjoying this way of life but I’m getting worried I have other issues I don’t know about. I’m 45….
    Thank you!

    1. There are some that gain on keto. Without knowing everything about you it is hard to recommend what to test for. I would say test for thyroid but the odds of even finding a doctor that would properly test or diagnose you is slim to none.

      That 4-5 lbs you gained is not likely fat. More often then not any weight that is gained is fluid. What are your macros and calories that you are eating and what are your stats?

      1. Hi Jack! Thank you for responding! Oh I should have mentioned, I used to have Pcos (:seems to have disappeared after keto) and had gallbladder removed about 12 years ago… so I’m sure I’m fighting an uphill battle. I’m 5’7, 135, eating around 1800 calories. I must say before I found you, I was eating 130-150 fat, 70-80 protein, 30-40 carbs. These days I’m closer to 180 g fat and 60 G protein, 20-30 carbs (from veggies mostly). Like I said I have been on diets all my life and this is the first time ever eating to nourish my body in a proper way. I was huge a sugar addict as well.. anyway, i feel great but would like to get more testing done to rule out any other issues. thank you!!!

  11. Mid-August will be 1 year of keto for me.
    I am assuming my hypothyroidism and adrenal insufficiency has played a role in my small keto weightloss. So far I’m at 31 lbs. gone.
    Glad of it but expected more. All the success stories amped me up.
    Will be jacking my fat grams up for awhile to see if it helps.
    *Staying with 50 g protein and under 20 g carb.

    1. There are a few other things that may help but that is a start. Remember if you ever feel you need help I offer personal coaching.


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